eGovernance in Andhra Pradesh

AP has been the leader in eGovernance among the Indian states. Writes the Economist:

The 28 eSeva centres in Hyderabad, where citizens can pay utility bills, register births and deaths, and conduct many other dealings with the government…At present, about 600,000 households a month already use the service, launched 18 months ago, in a city of 6m people. The centres are partnerships between the government and private firms, which provide the hardware in return for transaction fees. The government supplies the staff.

eSeva centres are [now being] opened across Andhra Pradesh. [The Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu] expects the World Bank to provide $55m towards his plans. The obstacles are obvious: illiteracy, and the shortage of internet connections and electricity. Mr Naidu remains resolutely optimistic. Soon, he believes, every village will have a connection. In fact, one village went online in a blaze of publicity in January. It was a project of CyberGrameen, a non-profit organisation set up by Krishna Prasad Tripuraneni, a telecoms entrepreneur in Chennai, and uses wireless technology to offer digital entertainment, distance learning, tele-medicine and government services.

Corporate Charity

NYTimes writes about digital divide projects being done by various companies:

Bridging the so-called digital divide by connecting billions of people to the Internet has become an important business objective in the American technology industry.

HP has invested $3 million in a project in Kuppam, India, in the eastern state of Andhra Pradesh. The project supports computer services provided by World Corps, a nonprofit group, while Hewlett-Packard employees work with Kuppam residents to understand what types of computerized information or services might be useful to the area’s 350,000 inhabitants many of whom earn less than a dollar a day, are illiterate and have never owned a telephone.

“Sometimes, putting computers in front of them freaked them,” said Maureen Conway, Hewlett-Packard’s vice president for emerging markets.

But she said the company had made progress. After hearing how residents had wasted hours going to the wrong medical clinics, Hewlett-Packard put information about Kuppam’s health services on a database that users could access through World Corps. Those needing health care can save time by finding out in advance what clinic will best serve their needs.

The Kuppam project, and a similar one in Mogalakwena, South Africa, convinced the company that it could sell some products, like its $200 iPAQ, a hand-held computer, in these markets if customers could borrow the money to buy them.